Peppers are colorful and — hot or not — easy vegetables to grow

No vegetable is easier to grow than a pepper. This is a perfectly straight-forward plant that simply needs you to wait patiently until the ground has reached 65 degrees and the last frost is over for the year, and then to slip the seedlings into the ground.

There are many, many varieties of all colors, flavors, heats and types, and they all are closely related and grown in the same way, without any complicated procedures or regard to the heat level.

Residents of Tennessee keep to the rule to plant after the dogwood blossoms have fallen, and that simplifies matters even further for them. Fruit will begin to ripen when he weather starts to cool down and the length of days grows shorter.

Seedlings should be kept warm in their first weeks of life, around 65-70 degrees in the daytime and not below 65 at night. Tepid water is best for irrigation, and use a mild solution of fertilizer weekly.

Peppers grow well in containers early in the growing season, but constricting the root ball later in the growing season is not helpful once the time for fruiting has arrived.

Do heed at least one snippet of advice I have to offer — label every plant! There is no way to estimate the heat of individual plants and this can be considerable.

If a hot pepper comes in contact with your skin, dab the area with a solution of one part household bleach to five parts water. Always wear gloves when handling hot peppers and be especially careful with your face and eyes!

Stake pepper plants or grow them in tomato cages, or plants may very well break as a result of the weight of the fruit.

Peppers usually are free of pests or diseases, although blossom end rot, aphids or tobacco mosaic virus sometimes is found. A strong jet of water is a good remedy for these problems.

Once peppers are fully grown, they have multiple uses. They can be stuffed, included in many types of cold dishes, baked whole, combined with meat, seafood and other vegetables, added chopped or whole to salads, casseroles and other vegetable dishes. Truly a food for all seasons.

Janet DelTurco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.

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